Lola at Butchertown Grocery opens tonight. | Photo courtesy of Butchertown Grocery

Tonight, Thanksgiving Eve, the most popular bar night of the year, the partners of Butchertown Grocery will relaunch their second-floor lounge under the name of Lola at Butchertown Grocery.

Don’t get too hung up on the name; it’s not a reference to the Kinks’ famous tune about a guy mistakenly falling for a transvestite, or the heartbroken waitress in Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” It’s just a sobriquet executive chef and partner Bobby Benjamin thought sounded lighthearted.

“Everybody’s thinking it means something in particular,” says Benjamin, “but it’s nothing concrete. Lola is a fun name, so that’s kind of the personality we want this place to have: fun.”

Not that Butchertown Grocery isn’t fun, it’s just different fun centered on more expensive and serious food, a reservations-recommended spot for the dining cognoscenti seeking a culinary experience.

To left, a tasty Lola negroni. | Photo by Rick Redding
To left, a tasty Lola negroni. | Photo by Rick Redding

“Lola is relaxed, a different vibe all the way around,” Benjamin says. “Very approachable.”

For example, beverage director Nic Christiansen’s 14-item cocktail menu includes a list of nine shots combining a mix of straight spirits and amaros. If knocking back a straight pour isn’t exciting enough, pour it into a “bone luge,” a halved beef bone the drinker angles into one’s mouth for shooting booze Fred Flintstone-style.

“It’s what Lola would do,” Benjamin says, grinning. “She’d do the luge.”

His partners, attorney Jon Salomon and My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan, refer to the space as a living room away from home, a gathering place that sometimes is more energetic than the restaurant downstairs, other times more subdued—a mood that’s easy to achieve in the largely candlelit room. (“More lighting is coming, we’re working on that,” Benjamin insists. That our press group ate and drank by candlelight is why we have no food pictures worth showing. Though she doesn’t even exist, I’m sure Lola would be offended by our photography were she real.)

“Sometimes people come for the live music, other times you can tell they like that it’s quiet,” Hallahan says. “The music that we’ve had here has been something to see.”

That includes appearances by famed bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland and impromptu piano playing by Teddy Abrams, conductor of the Louisville Orchestra.

“Teddy Abrams has kind of a residency here,” Hallahan says. “He’ll be up there playing that piano, just grinning and having a great time.”

Expect more live music, Hallahan adds, and possibly poetry and Moth-style storytelling nights.

It’s also now a place to eat. Benjamin created a short and mostly Lola-dedicated menu of sandwiches and bar snacks such as its portabello fries with a sambal aioli and “a spinach and artichoke dip that’s actually really good. I’ve always thought that dip really wanted to be good, but it wasn’t,” he said. Or, perhaps just not good enough for Lola.

Per his touches, the Cuban sandwich gets some pork and pizzazz from Broadbent’s country ham, and the “Ladies Man” cod sandwich isn’t your average Louisville fish sandwich: Belgian beer battered, house-made pickles and a punched-up tartar sauce turn that staple into a standout. On late nights, classic American hamburgers will be sold as well from 12:30-2 a.m. Food prices range from $5-$13.

In addition to an abundance of cushy couches, there are seats at tables and the bar. So don’t think you have to eat standing.

Lola is so all her own thing that she has her own entrance on the Buchanan St. side of the building. Just look for the sign and climb the stairs.

Lola will be open for dinner and late-night cocktails Wednesday and Sunday 6 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday through Saturday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. For more information, visit beginning Wednesday, Nov. 16 or follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.